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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER              65

of view and ideas taboo, and humour only lives on novel
and original points of view. It is clear that such a conventional
environment is not conducive to the production of humorous
literature. If anyone were to make a collection of Chinese
humour, he would have to cull it from the folk-songs and the
Yuan dramas'and the Ming novels, all outside the pale of the
classical "literature/' and in the private notes and letters of
scholars (especially those of the Sung and Ming Dynasties),
when they are a little off their guard.

But the Chinese have nevertheless a humour all their own,
for they always love a good joke. It is humour of a grimmer
sort, and is based on the farcical view of life. In spite of the
extremely serious style in their editorial and political writings,
which are seldom relieved by humour, they often surprise the
foreigners by the extremely light manner in which they take
important reform programmes and movements, like the Kuo-
mintang agrarian programme, the Sanmin Doctrine, the flood
and famine relief, the New Life Movement, and the Anti-
Opium Bureaux. An American professor, recently visiting
Shanghai and lecturing in the Chinese colleges, was completely
surprised by the burst of laughter among the student audience
whenever he made a perfectly sincere reference to the New
Life Movement* If he had made a serious reference to the
Anti-Opium Bureaux, he would have been met by still louder
volleys of silvery laughter.

For humour is, as I have said, a point of view, a way of
looking at life. With that view of life we are more or less
familiar. Life is a huge farce, and we human beings are mere
puppets in it. The man who takes life too seriously, who obeys
library reading-room rules too honestly, who actually keeps
off the lawn because merely a signboard says so, always makes
a fool of himself and is usually subjected to laughter from his
older colleagues, and since laughter is contagious, very soon he
becomes a humorist, too.

This humorist farcicality then results in the inability of
the Chinese to take anything seriously, from the most serious
political reform movement to a dog's funeral. The farcical
element in Chinese funerals is typical. In the grandiloquent
funeral processions of Chinese upper and middle classes, you